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Biography Binnie, Paul (1967 - )
Born in Scotland, Paul Binnie studied at Edinburgh University and College of Art from 1985 to 1990. Then he lived in France until 1993, and subsequently he went to Japan where he studied with woodblock printmaker Kenji Seki. He now lives in Wimbledon, England, where he has his studio. Paul Binnie is a very original, capable and versatile artist. He carves his own blocks and does the printing himself. He is also a successful painter and one of the most important representatives of the New Hanga movement.
Leaving the (no doubt) formative years at primary and secondary school in Alloa, Scotland aside, Paul Binnie’s artistic career really started at The University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh College of Art in 1985. In 1990 Paul Binnie took his MA, and then he went abroad to Paris.
There his fascination with ukiyo-e deepened: he started collecting Japanese woodblock prints and in early 1993 he decided to go to Tokyo to learn the correct techniques of both carving an printing.
His teacher was Seki Senji, master printer at Doi. He also made friends with woodblock artist Ralph Kiggell, who was studying at the Yoshida Studio at the time. There Paul Binnie met Toshi Yoshida, and made numerous visits to the Yoshida Studio to sharply watch the carving and printing procedures there.
Paul Binnie lived in Sendagaya in Tokyo, a few streets away from the National Noh Theatre. He became absolutely fascinated by both Noh and Kabuki, and like 18th and 19th century Japanese woodblock artists he started making sketches of Kabuki and Noh actors behind the scenes. These sketches were used both for his subsequent print designs and for a vast array of oil paintings. Paul Binnie is a really gifted draughtsman, and examples of his drawings can be found in my website as well.
While still in Tokyo, Paul Binnie participated in the prestigeous CWAJ print show at the American Club in Tokyo. This yearly show of contemporary prints started in 1955, and every print artist that mattered in Japan in the late 20th century has exhibited there. Paul’s first appearance was in 1996, and he has returned on five subsequent occasions.
In the same period, while in Tokyo, Paul Binnie had solo exhibitions at The Hanlin Gallery, Hongkong, The Tolman Gallery in Tokyo and The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, also in Tokyo.
In 1998 Paul Binnie returned to England and he became very productive indeed: woodblock prints, stencil prints, watercolours, etchings and oil paintings.
After a while his woodblock prints production took shape: different genres developed: landscapes, tattoo prints, bijin prints (prints of female beauties), Kabuki prints. There are times when he only produces bijin prints, then he has a “landscape period”, but in fact he is permanently busy.
It is difficult to exaggerate the impressive technical skill Paul has developed over the years: both in carving and in printing he is an absolute master. I was so lucky to witness his skill at work in 2004, when I commissioned a print “Engawa” in a very limited edition of 30 copies. In the summer of 2004 I visited him at his studio in Wimbledon. He had a few designs prepared, I chose one and together we discussed what colours and “special effects” would be used. The result was impressive, and it is hard to imagine the elation I felt when I had the 30 copies lying side by side at home.
Paul Binnie’s perfectionism is evident everywhere: a good example is the design “Yamagata no Yamadera”, which was first published in March 1996. Now, nearly ten years later, Paul has re-worked it into a print that is similar (of course) but at the same time a lot better than the original version. Paul hates to throw away a good design.
One Japanese artist is Paul’s absolute favourite: Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 – 1950), and he tries to collect good copies of his woodblock prints where he can find them. Though his own work is quite different from that of Hiroshi Yoshida, they share a mastery of the woodblock medium.
2007 saw the publication of the catalogue raisonné of his woodblock prints to date: Paul Binnie, A Dialogue with the Past, with essays by Dr. Kendall H. Brown, Paul Griffith and Akama Ryo, Professor at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, where a selection of his work was exhibited in November 2007. The book gives a wonderful overview of Paul's work, the photographs are absolutely brilliant, as are the texts.
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